Karl Lagerfeld has never been one for romance or nostalgia. Color and geometry were his two pillars for the Fendi collection shown in Milan today. Still, many of the clothes had the airy volume of outfits for an ideal summer holiday, an impression compounded by the pressed-flower souvenirs incorporated as a subtle woven detail. And further underscoring that notion was the singed backdrop; the effect extended to the first few outfits, which looked like they'd been kissed by fire. The heat of the sun? The heat of desire? Either way, it was clearly the hottest holiday Fendi's ever had, hotter even than the summer Lagerfeld just enjoyed at his house in Saint-Tropez, where the mercury hit 100-plus for weeks on end.
At the same time, there was such an easy informality in the smocks, drawstring tunics, and paper-bag-waisted skirts that the Fendi woman could have been taking a stroll through a breezy wildflower meadow. When Iris Strubegger appeared on the catwalk three-quarters of the way through the show in a tailored blue suit with squared shoulders and a pannier-ed waist, it was almost a shock: a glimpse of Fendi then versus the Fendi now we were seeing all around.
But then, duality is this house's way. It starts with the joint stewardship of Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi, and in this collection it played out in ways both subtle (the wrap skirt that incorporated angles and curves) and obvious (the all-important bags combined the softness of napa and the hardness of Roman leather). Maybe that's why Silvia talked about "clothes for connoisseurs," i.e., people with an eye for those contrasts. Connoisseurs of Karl might note the touches he added for his own edification, in particular the tiny holes, edged and darned, that looked like flowers. Fendi? Darned? Such a homespun flourish spoke to the humble heart of this particular collection.
A footnote: One of the minor irritations of recent Spring/Summer collections has been the way the notion of seasonless dressing has edited the sun out of fun. How refreshing to see some of Milan's biggest names paying such unambiguous homage to old Sol.